The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
March 29, 1995
Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you so much Mrs. Gandhi, Ambassador
Wisner, Ambassador Hussain. I have not seen Mrs. Gandhi's
introduction, but I must say after hearing it, she and I have
been thinking very much alike as you will notice.
to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation
New Delhi, India
It is a great honor for me to join you here today, to be in
New Delhi, in the company of men and women who keep alive the
high ideals for India and the world that Rajiv Gandhi helped to
I would like to thank the people of India for extending a
warm and gracious welcome to me and my daughter who is here with
me. To President Sharma and Prime Minister Rao, I owe special
thanks for their warm hospitality. The Prime Minister's visit to
Washington 10 months ago opened a new chapter in Indian-American
relations, one that promised to build on the many values and
aspirations our peoples share. We greatly appreciate the energy
and wisdom he has lent to strengthening the friendship between
Although my journey here is far too brief, it is the
culmination of a life long desire to visit India. I hope these
days will be the first of many I spend in this country, learning
about your extraordinary past and your vibrant and exciting
future; and exploring the shared dreams we hold to the future of
the human family.
I can think of no more fitting setting in which to reflect
upon these shared dreams than here at the Rajiv Gandhi
Foundation-an institution dedicated to the realization of Rajiv
Gandhi's dream of a better life for all people of India.
Programs of this foundation such as assisting children
orphaned by terrorism, or promoting literacy and health among
women and children in rural areas or providing fellowships for
women entrepreneurs are inspiring examples of how to translate
dreams into reality.
Our meeting today occurs at an historic moment. As we
approach a new century, we are also on the frontier of a new
world. It is different from the one we have known for the past
50 years. It is a world in which many old divisions have
diminished or disappeared. The long reign of dictators and
controlled economies has given way to democracy and free markets
in country after country.
The opportunities for peace and prosperity are greater now
than every before. But this is also a world of profound change
that exacerbated old challenges and creates new ones: the
challenge of deep poverty still confronts us. The challenge of
living together in peace and harmony in the face of ethnic,
religious and other tensions among peoples has never been
greater. The challenge of putting people first--of including all
of our citizens as full participants in our economic and
political lives--men and women, rich and poor, people of all
races and creeds--remains fundamental to all of us.
These ancient challenges are compounded by the stresses
inherent in a time of rapid change. The so-called Information
Age holds great potential that the virtual reality created by the
media and computers can not only help us communicate more quickly
but understand each other better; yet we also know technology
poses difficult problem: a vast majority of our world's people
are not prepared with the skills needed for the new global
economy. And, if consumerism is the primary message being
transmitted, the explosion in material expectations will put
additional demands on institutions ranging from the family to the
government that are unlikely to be met quickly or fully. The
alienation spawned by disappointment with the promise of change
is likely to increase.
So, together we must address both the opportunities and
difficulties that confront us today--for ourselves, our families,
and the future of our children.
I want to talk with you today about what I consider central
to a good common future that we can create together and that
is--the importance of ensuring that women are invested in their
own lives and able to participate fully in our national lives.
Women represent over half the world's population. And yet in
country after country, they lack access to education, to health
services, to jobs, to political and civil rights. Where women
lack access to education, health care and economic opportunity,
children tend to be less educated, less well nourished and families tend to be
both larger and poorer. Where women are illiterate, experience
has shown that the environment is often poorly managed and
democracy remains fragile. One lesson the experience of the last
several decades teaches us is that where women prosper, countries
But the education of women has even greater benefits for
societies. Education helps us understand and tolerate
differences and so holds out the promise that we can live
together more harmoniously. Education helps us comprehend the
unsettling changes in our lives today and helps us better manage
those changes. Education is as important to peace as it is to
But what is it that we must do to bring women fully into our
national lives, among other things, we must be able to attend
school and learn, not just to be literate but to acquire the
knowledge and skills--of medicine, of engineering, of management,
of computers and so forth-that will contribute to the prosperity
of their families and nations. Women must have access to health
care, especially the care they need as expecting or new mothers.
Wives, together with their husbands, must have access to family
planning services to enable them to make voluntary, responsible
and informed choices about the size of their families. And,
children--girls as well as boys--must have access to preventive
and curative medical care that will enable them to grow into
I recognize that discussion of such problems as education
and health care for girls and women is viewed by some as "soft,"
labeled dismissively as a women's issues belonging, at best, on
the edge of serious debate about all the problems we confront on
the cusp of the 21st century. I want to argue strongly, however,
that the questions surrounding social development, especially of
women, as discussed at the recent social summit in Copenhagen,
are at the center of our political and economic challenges.
Governments, business and citizens must recognize and act upon
the truth for the betterment of nations and our global family.
But even assuming you would agree with my argument, what is to be
done to bring about strategies for such development? That is a
question that deserves far more analysis and discussion that I
can offer here today, but let me suggest there are five key
commitments needed to achieve this worthy goal of social
development for women.
First, governments must continue to expand the general
conditions required for democracy and market economies that we
know can unleash the creative energies of millions of people if
they are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities
available to them.
The Indian government has recently undertaken major economic
reforms and these reforms have already helped stimulate
investment and more rapid growth.
Such reforms are essential. But they are rarely sufficient
to achieve sustainable development in any country. Where social
services and women's access to those services remain limited,
growth will prove uneven and unsustainable. My own country is
debating vigorously the role of government in supplying social
services because of the recognition that a significant number of
our own citizens are not equipped to share in the rewards of the
newly emerging economy.
In addition, every government should invest more resources
in the education and health care of children, especially girls.
This should be a priority that takes precedence over competing
budgetary demands. For some countries like those in South Asia,
it means providing schools and clinics where they are needed and
incentives for persuading families to educate and provide health
care for all their children. For a country like the United
States, it means delivering existing services more efficiently
with greater accountability for outcomes.
Second, although governments have primary responsibility for
creating environments that encourage economic growth and social
development, businesses also have a role to play. But at a time
when businesses are increasingly pressured to perform on the
basis of quarterly results, they have to recognize that the
social costs of doing business often have medium and long term
economic consequences. Depleting natural or human resources
destroys markets and undermines people's confidence in them. The
world needs socially responsible business leadership now more
Third, although the role of commitment of government and
business is key to development, they alone cannot achieve these
social goals. Citizens, cooperating together in non-governmental
organizations, like this foundation, must also take the
initiative and even provide the lead.
NGOs are often created by individuals with a dream--like
Mother Teresa whose renowned compassion--even tenacity--on behalf
of the world's most unfortunate moved us deeply when we visited
her home for children here in New Delhi yesterday.
NGO leadership--often volunteer--is typically highly
motivated and energetic in pursuing a vision of a better world.
Tomorrow I will visit with Ela Bhatt, that soft-spoken visionary
whose work is infused with the ideals of Gandhi. From her, I
hope to learn more about SEWA--the Self Employed Women's
Association-- and how it has empowered poor women to take control
of their futures and make better lives for themselves and their
NGOs can give voice to the aspirations of people who are
left out of the modern economy and whose influence on government
may otherwise be small. The Prayas School which I visited
yesterday embodies the idea that health, education, and economic
development go hand in hand, and that learning must begin at the
earliest stages of life and progress throughout it.
NGOs, where their members must debate and implement programs
and elect their officials, are among the most effective training
grounds for democracy. Their activism strengthens democracy by
holding governments accountable for the way their policies and
practices affect people.
As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the last century,
voluntary citizen associations are one of the vital foundations
of American society and democracy. That is equally true of India
where the long experience and success of NGOs inspires us.
America recognizes in our partnership with India, our NGOs
and yours must play a central role. Our bilateral aid program
relies on NGOs to implement programs and projects, and we are
committed to increasing that partnership.
We recognize, that in no area are NGOs more important than
in efforts to educate and empower women. At the Social Summit in
Copenhagen two weeks ago, I announced a new ten year, $100
million USAID Girls and Women's Education Initiative. I am happy
to announce today that India will be the first country to benefit
from this program. (Applause) We will soon provide an initial
grant to support NGOs--US and Indian--to expand girls' education
in this country.
The fourth area for concern is that of the family, for it is
the family that determines primarily now daughters are treated.
Deeply rooted attitudes about the value of girls are hard to
change, but we must try to persuade mother and father to invest
love, attention and resources in their girls, starting with
education and health care. The success of that persuasion will
rest on a new vision of a world in which the distinctions between
men and women are not viewed as reasons to demean each other, but
as complementary parts of a greater whole.
In this new world, both boys and girls are loved and cared
for, first by the family they are born into--by parents who want
them and invest in them; then by their extended family; then by
the families they build as adults and by the children whom they,
in turn, invest with love; and finally by societies that value
every child as a gift to be nurtured and remember, in the words
of Rabindranath Tagore: "Every child comes with the message that
God is not yet discouraged of man."
Finally, women have to be responsible for our own lives and
our own futures and work together to provide opportunities for
themselves and other.
All of us must participate in a conversation about how to
shape the changes we seek in the world we share. It is
particularly important that women find their own voice and become
participants and decision-makers in the home, the work place,
community, and nation. We must develop a new language to replace
the deafening silence that still sounds too often when women's
concerns are raised.
I have never seen a better description of the reason why
women's silence must end than in a poem I received yesterday.
This was not how my speech was to end, but when I was handed it
by Meenakshi Gopinath, the principal of Lady Sri Ram College in
New Delhi. (Applause) A poem entitled, "Silence" written by a
student, Anasuya Sengupta of the Class of 1995. I wanted to
share the words of this young woman who speaks for countless
other young women here in India and throughout the world.
Because if we listen to the voices of women and pay particular
heed to the voices of young women, the goals we have for women
will be more likely achieved. And this is the poem I received,
it is entitled "Silence":
"Too many women in too many countries speak the same
language-of silence. My grandmother was always silent--
always aggrieved--only her husband had the cosmic right (or
so it was said) to speak and to be heard.
"They say it is different now. (After all, I am always
vocal and my grandmother thinks I talk too much) But sometimes,
"When a women gives her love, as most do, generously--it is
accepted. When a woman shares her thoughts, as some women do,
graciously--It is allowed. When a woman fights for power, as
all women would like to, quietly or loudly, it is
"And yet, there must be freedom--if we are to speak. And
yes, there must be power--if we are to be heard. And when we
have both (freedom and power) let us not be misunderstood.
"We seek only to give words to those who cannot speak (too
many women in too many countries) I seek only to forget the
sorrows of my grandmother's silence."
As we work together on behalf of our grandmothers, mothers,
sisters, daughters, and ourselves-let us avoid the false debate
that says, on the one hand, only powerful institutions like
government or business, or on the other, only individuals, are
responsible for solving their own problems that we confront. In
fact, we all know we need partnerships to achieve social changes.
Governments, businesses, NGOs, families, and women themselves can
either support or undermine people as they face the moral, social
and economic challenges of our time. Individuals can either take
initiative and responsibility or fall into hopelessness and
despair. Simply put, no government, no businesses, no NGO, no
person can remain idle given the magnitude of the challenges we
face and the uncertainties of the world we live.
If all of us could take our responsibilities seriously. If
we use our voices to seek ways to achieve the goals that really
underlie the political and economic aspirations that are now
being sought around the world and women and men will create a
better world-for boys and girls-and that ultimately is what the
point of political and economic activity should be here, in
America, and around the world. Thank you all very much.